Some Preliminary Questions for Consideration

1. What was the original U.S. stance towards the idea of free elections in Iraq?

2. Why did L. Paul Bremer, heading up the U.S. occupation, state in the summer of 2003, “Elections held too early can be destructive,” adding that while there was “no blanket rule” against democracy in Iraq, and he wasn’t “personally opposed to it,” it had to take place “in a way that takes care of our concerns” and is “done very carefully”?

3. Why were elections held much earlier than occupation authorities had originally projected? What did the violent Iraqi resistance, and peaceful mass protests called by al-Sistani have to do with it?

4. Why were people asked to vote for lists, rather than individuals? Why were individuals’ names kept secret? Did people know who they were voting for?

5. Why did the Sunnis generally boycott the poll?

6. Why were there no foreign observers?

7. The Kurdish list did very well. One nearly uninhabited village submitted about 10,000 ballots. Will such irregularities be investigated?

8. Why, when Fallujah was destroyed in order to flush out opponents of the poll so that Sunnis might participate, did so few elect to do so?

9. Why did it take two weeks to announce the results?

10. Why, when it had been widely predicted that the Shiites’ United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) would win about 60% of the vote, did it only get 48%?

11. According to a March 2004 poll taken by BBC and four other broadcasters, CIA operative Ahmad Chalabi had “almost no” support among the Iraqi people. How did he emerge as a likely cabinet minister, even possibly the prime minister?

12. Why did Judith Miller tell Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s “Hardball” that the U.S. was “reaching out” to Chalabi, after accusing him of being an Iranian agent in May 2004, “apparently in an effort to determine whether or not he would be interested in assuming a certain portfolio”? After Bush told King Abdullah of Jordan (where Chalabi was convicted of swindling) “You can piss on Chalabi”?
Why, around February 7, did a line of Humvees and American trucks deliver Robert Ford, one of the senior U.S. diplomats in Iraq, to Chalabi’s home for a two-hour visit that left him beaming?

13. If U.S. officials are in fact determining or even influencing distribution of portfolios, what does that tell you about the legitimacy of the election?

14. Overall turnout was reportedly 8.55 million votes, which was 58 percent of those registered to vote in a country of 25 million people. This is higher than the turnout in the last eight presidential elections in the U.S., a country not wracked by violence, occupied by foreign troops, or forced to accept an electoral procedure approved by an occupation. Is it plausible?

15. Might U.S. authorities in conjunction with Iraqi partners deliberately falsify turnout figures in order to legitimate the election?

16. Why did U.S. officials including President Bush repeatedly state that U.S. forces would withdraw if asked to do so by an elected Iraqi government, adding that that definitely wouldn’t happen? Why, knowing that a Zogby poll taken last month showed that 82% of Sunni Arabs and 69% of Shiites (69%) favor an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops, do they assume that the elected officials will approve their plans to maintain 120,000 troops at least to 2007?

17. Why did Chalabi state publicly during a recent trip to Iran that U.S. troops would have to stay in the country for the time being?

18. Why did Ayad Allawi, another known CIA operative, do fairly well in the election?

19. U.S. officials accused Iran of pouring money into its favored parties prior to the elections, as though this were improper. How much money did the U.S. provide to the parties it favored? And what is the U.S. history of pouring money into foreign elections to influence their outcome?

20. Why on CNN’s “Crossfire” Jan. 28 did Paul Begala (“from the left”!) declare days before the election that, although he’d opposed the war, he felt the Iraqi people should be grateful for this “enormous gift from the American people” but was “struck by their spectacular lack of gratitude”? Why was there absolute unanimity in the corporate press before and after the elections that they were a big step forward for the Iraqi people, and that whatever one’s view about the war might be, we should all acknowledge this? Why was there no critique of the whole procedure?

21. Does the Bush administration, which speaks often of democracy and freedom, really care much about scrupulously fair electoral processes, in the U.S., Afghanistan, Ukraine, Venezuela or anywhere if those processes produce results it finds disagreeable?

22. Does this election in any way validate an invasion justified as needed to rid Iraq of its nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, and to sever its nonexistent ties to al-Qaeda?

23. The current “transitional government” operates under an interim constitution that describes Iraq as an Islamic state. Under U.S. occupation, Islamic parties have been able to impose rules concerning female dress, the sale of alcohol and music CDs, and the practice of Christianity which have sent tens of thousands of Christians into Syrian exile. Saddam’s Iraq was a secular state; the new regime that emerges now will be inclined to impose the Sharia. Is this a happy result of the U.S. invasion?

24. Is this all just window-dressing for continued occupation, or might quite unintended consequences occur, posing problems for the Bush administration’s goal of regional domination?

25. If that goal is thwarted, even by Islamic fundamentalists, is that a bad thing?

GARY LEUPP is Professor of History at Tufts University, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is also a contributor to CounterPunch’s merciless chronicle of the wars on Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, Imperial Crusades.

He can be reached at: gleupp@granite.tufts.edu

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Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

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